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The fundamental principle of terminology is that terms belong to spheres of activity structured into classification systems for specialized knowledge. Each area of specialization has such a system, which must be reflected in every coherent terminology collection.
Documentary classification systems, encyclopedias, manuals, and databases intended for knowledge transfer can all provide the beginning terminologist with the framework required to establish or adopt a subject-field classification system for the subject area in which s/he is called upon to perform terminology research.
Subject-field classification systems may include a single level or multiple levels. In some cases, a single level may be defined for subject fields of less interest to the organization, while several hierarchical levels may be available for the classification of concepts in important spheres of activity.
One example of a subject-field classification system can be found in TERMIUM®, in which sets of terminology are organized into 24 broad subject fields. On average, each broad subject field, or class, is divided into 10 to 12 subject fields (divisions), each of which is, in turn, divided into subfields. This gives a total of about 1,600 classification nodes. For data-entry purposes, the subject fields are coded; for consultation purposes, the codes are automatically expanded into full descriptors. This system continues to be adopted and adapted by language professionals responsible for establishing terminology databases.
|K Électronique et informatique||K Electronics and Informatics|
|Systèmes cybernétiques||KA||Cybernetic Systems|
|Ensembles électroniques||KC||Electronic Systems|
|Matériel informatique||KD||Computer Hardware|
|Automatique||KF||Automatic Control Engineering|
Fig. 1a TERMIUM® Subject-Field Classification Guide, broad K class (Electronics and Informatics) and its divisions
|KA Systèmes cybernétiques||empty||KA Cybernetics Systems|
|Systèmes cybernétiques de réaction||KAA||Response Systems|
|Systèmes cybernétiques de contrôle et de commande||KAB||Control Systems|
|Systèmes cybernétiques de régulation||KAC||Regulatory Systems|
|Intelligence artificielle||KAD||Artificial Intelligence|
|Termes inclassables||KAZ||Non-classifiable Terms|
Fig. 1b TERMIUM® Subject-Field Classification Guide, KA division (Cybernetics Systems) and its sections
Related disciplines and convergent technologies may share some concepts and the terms that designate them. Sometimes, the same concept may have different designations depending on the subject field of use, or the same term may designate different concepts in different areas of specialization. Indication of the subject field removes any ambiguity.
|VGK||Signalling (Road Transport)|
electronic highway*a*SEE RECORD
|DEF*||An electronically equipped highway for monitoring traffic flow and user security.*a|
|OBS*||electronic highway: Not to be confused with the "information highway".*a|
Automated Highway System*
|CONT*||Certains futuristes envisagent des trains de voitures sur des autoroutes automatiques. En attendant, on peaufine un système anticollision qui détecte les obstacles, régule vitesse et distance minimales. Et un système d'alerte qui réveille le conducteur assoupi et redresse la trajectoire du véhicule en cas de problème.*b|
|OBS*||Promoteur de ce projet, PATH (Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways) […] a placé dans le béton, au centre de la voie, 92 778 aimants. Les véhicules sont équipés d'un senseur magnétique, baptisé magnétomètre, situé sous le pare-chocs avant, qui « lit » les aimants grâce à un système de codage numérique. Les aimants contrôlent les déplacements latéraux du véhicule et les corrigent.*e|
Fig. 2 Several subject fields per record. The term "electronic highway" has a different meaning in the field of telecommunications. A different record must be created for the concept in that subject field.
Classification systems evolve to reflect progress within a sphere of activity. This progress might entail the appearance of new disciplines, the migration of concepts between disciplines, or the disappearance, merging, or splitting of certain concepts or designations. Such changes lead to the indication of more than one subject field on the support on which data related to a single concept are recorded.
The distinction between primary subject field and field of application is another important principle with regard to subjectfield classification. The concepts in one area of specialization may be applicable to several disciplines; nevertheless, they belong inherently to one subject field, which is always indicated first on the record.
|DEF*||A colorless liquid with an aroma of rum, occurring naturally in apples. It may be prepared synthetically. Used by the food industry as a fungicide and a flavoring agent.*a|
|DEF*||Liquide incolore à odeur de rhum, reproductible par synthèse, naturellement présent dans les pommes. L'industrie alimentaire l'emploie comme fongicide et comme aromatisant.*a|
Fig. 3 Primary subject field (Chemical Compounds) and field of application (Food Additives)
In order to conduct any terminology research purported to reflect the current state of the art, the terminologist must keep track of knowledge in a given sphere of activity and stay abreast of new developments and their impact on communication.
Beginning terminologists can acquire this knowledge by carefully reading specialized documentation, building a network of specialized consultants, and keeping informed of relevant topics discussed at symposia, conferences and exhibits.
This knowledge will help the terminologist identify basic terminology and recognize the most recent terminology. In the latter case, concepts may be less clearly understood, neologisms may frequently occur, and usage may sometimes be contradictory, which hampers understanding.
|DEF*||Correspondence in the form of messages transmitted between user terminals over a computer network.*a|
|CONT*||Nerd speak. Strudel-post: electronic mail. (Strudel refers to the "at" sign in E-mail addresses).*c|
|OBS*||electronic mail; E-mail; Email: terms standardized by ISO and CSA.*b|
|FR||courrier électronique*a,d,e,h,i* MASC, STANDARDIZED
courriel*a,i*SEE RECORD, MASC, STANDARDIZED
messagerie électronique*b*SEE RECORD, FEM
Mél*b,i*SEE RECORD, MASC
imelle*f*SEE RECORD, MASC, FAMILIAR
adresse électronique*b*SEE RECORD, FEM
C. élec*i*CORRECT, MASC
|DEF*||Correspondance sous forme de messages, transmise entre terminaux d'utilisateur sur un réseau d'ordinateurs.*a|
|CONT*||Le HP320LX est la future star du marché des assistants personnels, ces petits ordinateurs qui se glissent dans la poche intérieure d'une veste. Il a reçu Microsoft Explorer et permet donc de surfer et d'échanger des « mel » (la nouvelle orthographe officielle pour « e-mail »).*g|
|EX*||Un imelle sur le oueb, c'est banal aujourd'hui.*f|
|OBS*||courrier électronique; courriel; CÉ : termes normalisés par l'ISO et la CSA; courriel : terme proposé par l'Office de la langue française (Québec).*b|
|OBS*||messagerie électronique; Mél : terme et abréviation proposés par la Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie (France), approuvés par l'Académie française, et qui seront publiés prochainement au Journal Officiel de la République française (Arrêtés de terminologie). L'abréviation mél (ou mel) a été rejetée par l'AFNOR et l'ISO.*b|
Fig. 4 Recent terminology, neologisms
The primary function of terminology work is the transfer of specialized knowledge and the authentication of related terminological usage. Terminology research is required in order to identify the terms that convey specialized knowledge.
In order to ensure that this function is performed successfully, the terminologist must be familiar with the best documents in his or her subject field and evaluate the documents by category:
To facilitate acquisition of this type of knowledge, the terminologist may consult documentalists and subject-field specialists, and participate in specialized forums and discussion groups on the Internet.
Some types of documentation are traditionally preferred over others. Original-language documents are preferable to translations, and encyclopedias and other recognized academic documents or works recommended by specialists are preferable to brochures and promotional material.
The usefulness of monographs is evaluated against criteria such as the following:
Trade journals are preferable to popularized periodicals.
Although the Internet provides a wide range of documentary sources, they are transitory in nature and vary greatly in value.
As a content provider in a specialized language, the terminologist responsible for a given subject field must ensure that the data provided to users of terminology are coherent and up-to-date, and meet quality standards. Whether working alone or under the supervision of a reviser, the terminologist must master the rules concerning the presentation of the terminological data with a view to distributing and implementing them in his or her department or company.
The main recording form for the data is the terminology record. At a minimum, the data selected and presented must inform the user about the subject fields of the concept, the languages in which the concept is described, the terms that designate the concept in each of these languages, the definition of the concept (or any other type of textual support), and the sources that document this information.
A record is made up of fields. Each field contains one particular type of data (or data element). A field may contain an entry term, a grammatical parameter, an originator code, etc. In comparative terminology, a record includes at least two language modules, each of which contains the same series of fields corresponding to important data elements.
|Element 1:||primary subject field, fields of application|
|Element 2:||language identifier|
|Element 3:||main entry + sources + usage parameters (see list below)
The main entry is the preferred term, expression or official title, which is entered first among the entries of the language module.
|Element 4:||abbreviation of the main entry + sources + usage parameters|
|Element 5:||secondary entry + sources + usage parameters
Secondary entry terms are terms, expressions or official titles that are different from the main entry but that designate the same concept or entity. There may be differences in usage (frequency, level of language, etc.), which are indicated using parameters (labels). There may also be differences in spelling (including syntactic variants).
|Element 6:||abbreviations of secondary entries + sources + parameters|
|Element 7:||textual-support identifier + textual support + sources
The main types of textual support are the definition (identifier DEF), explanatory context (CONT), usage sample (EX), supplementary terminological, administrative or technical information (OBS), and phraseologism (PHR).
|Element 10:||record-creation date|
Fig. 5a Essential data elements of a record (description)
|RBN||Lexicology, Lexicography and Terminology|
|2 and 3|
|EN||terminology record*a*OFFICIALLY APPROVED|
|DEF*||A medium for recording terminological data.*a|
|2 and 3|
|FR||fiche de terminologie*b*FEM, OFFICIALLY APPROVED|
|DEF*||Support sur lequel sont consignées selon un protocole établi les données terminologiques relatives à une notion.*b|
Fig. 5b Essential data elements of a record (illustration)
|Parts of Speech|
|Official Status Labels|
Fig. 5c List of TERMIUM® parameters, in order of entry
In order to set up a terminology file or database, a methodology for recording information must first be established and a record-completion guide (such as the TERMIUM® Guide) must be written. Without guidelines for completing records, file management becomes impossible, whether the file is manual or computerized. Since manual terminology files are rapidly being replaced by computerized files, familiarity with word-processing applications (such as WordPerfect and Word) and with data-recording tools is becoming increasingly important.
Management of the contents of terminology files is an ongoing task. The complexity of the elements on a record and the amount of data recorded depend on the information available and on the evolution of knowledge in the subject field under study. However, content management must always be performed as a function of the profile of the targeted users, including their level of knowledge, their querying requirements (for example, missing information to be provided), and the purpose of the users' queries. In other words, content management must result in the satisfaction of client needs.
Terminology work requires an excellent knowledge of the structure and linguistic system of each of the languages under study, and of preferred usage in a specialized language. Knowledge of the rules for lexical term formation, of grammatical rules and of the stylistic characteristics of different levels of language helps the terminologist evaluate the linguistic quality of specialized documents and prepare records that respect quality-assurance criteria.
The contents of a terminology record are evaluated against a number of criteria, including:
The quality of a terminology record is also based on the authenticity and representativity of the usage recorded by the terminologist. Among the various usages documented, the record originator must recognize and identify those that subject-field specialists prefer or avoid, recommend or caution against.
The knowledge structure of a subject field results from terminological analysis, that is, the contextual analysis of texts in the specialized language with a view to understanding and describing the concepts designated by terminology units.
In terminology work, the knowledge acquired in a given subject field is structured according to the hierarchical and associative relationships between the concepts that make up the subject field.
Hierarchical relationships are those most frequently used to structure knowledge. They include relationships between a generic concept and related specific concepts, and partitive relationships between a whole and its parts. The graphical representation of the relationships is called a concept diagram.
In associative relationships, concepts are linked spatially or temporally. These relationships include the following types: producer-product; action-result; action-tool; container-contents; and cause-effect.
|bushel||<->||apples||container – contents|
|polishing||<->||polisher||action – tool|
|nursery operator||<->||trees||producer – product|
|bricklayer||<->||trowel||trade – tool|
|hammer||<->||nail||tool – object|
|hour||<->||watch||length of time – instrument|
|king||<->||castel||person – dwelling|
|rain||<->||flood||cause – effect|
Fig. 6a Associative relationships
Fig. 6b Partitive relationships (text version)
With the help of this graphical representation of concept relationships, the terminologist can identify the essential semantic features of the concepts as well as their supplementary characteristics. The essential and delimiting semantic features are required to define the concepts, while the supplementary features serve to illustrate them.
The concept system also helps the terminologist to establish the textual match (that is, the correspondence of semantic features found in excerpts explaining the meaning of one or more specialized terms in one or more languages) and, consequently, to group all terms that designate the same concept on a single terminology record.
|DEF*||A geometrical object toward which the trajectory of a dynamical system represented by a curve in the phase space, converges in the course of time.*c|
|DEF*||Ensemble invariant vers lequel est attirée asymptotiquement la trajectoire d'un système dynamique représenté par une courbe dans l'espace des phases.*d|
Fig. 7 Textual match
The terminology unit is the name or designation of a concept in a concept system. It may be a word, an expression, a symbol, a chemical or mathematical formula, a scientific name in Latin, an acronym, an initialism, or the official title of a position, an organization, or an administrative unit.
A term or terminology unit in a specialized language is distinguished from a word in general language by its single-meaning relationship with the specialized concept that it designates (called monosemy) and by the stability of the relationship between form and content in texts dealing with this concept (called lexicalization). The status of the term is revealed by its frequency of use and its relatively fixed contextual surroundings (its co-occurrents), and by typographical enhancements (italics, boldface print, quotation marks, etc.). A final indicator is its rather limited set of morphological and lexical structures: noun (simple, derived, or compound), verb, adjective, noun phrase, verb phrase, or adjective phrase.
|FHE||Negotiable Instruments (Commercial Law)|
check*e*NOUN, UNITED STATES
|DEF*||A bill of exchange drawn on a bank, payable on demand.*b|
|PHR*||Issue, deliver, return a cheque*d|
|DEF*||Effet de commerce par lequel le titulaire d'un compte bancaire (le tireur) donne l'ordre à sa banque ou à un établissement financier (le tiré) de payer à vue à son profit ou à celui d'un tiers (le bénéficiaire) une somme à prélever sur le crédit de son compte.*e|
|PHR*||Distribuer, émettre, retourner un chèque*d|
Fig. 8 Phraseologisms with the term "cheque"
|Simple terms:||budget, protection, Email, publishing|
|Complex terms:||desktop publishing, user-friendly, zip disk|
|Derived terms:||atom = atomic = atomize = atomization = atomicity
electronic mail = email = emailing = emails
|Terminological phrases:||database management system;
state of the art; adjust a budget
|Acronyms:||AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome);
radar (radio detecting and ranging)
Fig. 9 Simple terms, complex terms, derived terms, terminological phrases, acronyms
A sound understanding of these structures helps the terminologist identify terminology units during term extraction. In addition, the terminologist requires such knowledge in order to create or propose new terms, or neologisms, to name new concepts when necessary, and to ensure correct and consistent usage of the terms identified.
Neologisms may be new words or new meanings assigned to existing words. In either case, certain principles should be respected to improve their chances of acceptance, or success.
The concepts belonging to an area of specialization are mental constructs that help structure objects in the real world. These objects may be concrete or abstract entities (e.g. computer, freedom); properties (e.g. floppy, vocal); relationships (e.g. identity, partner, family violence, parallel); or functions or activities (e.g. friction, preventive maintenance, automatic subtraction). All of the terms that designate the concept described on a terminological record are in a monosemous relationship with this concept in a given specialized language: each one designates only this concept. This does not preclude, however, the use of homonyms to designate concepts in different subject fields.
Concept-term monosemy involves the single-concept principle, according to which the terminologist must deal with one concept at a time, whether it be on a monolingual or multilingual terminology record or in a specialized vocabulary entry. This is the exact opposite of the principle of polysemy that is applied in general-language dictionaries in which the lexicographical entry comprises a series of senses, each reflecting a different concept.
|IEC||Nuclear Power Stations|
|SHC||Nuclear Fission Reactors|
|YAA||Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission|
|DEF*||Uranium dioxide, or other nuclear fuel in a powdered form, which has been pressed, sintered and ground to a cylindrical shape for insertion into the sheathing tubes of the fuel bundle.*a|
|OBS*||fuel pellet: term standardized by ISO.*d|
pastille de combustible*c*FEM, STANDARDIZED
|DEF*||Forme sous laquelle se présente le combustible de nombreux réacteurs nucléaires. (Les pastilles, souvent cylindriques, sont constituées, par exemple, d'oxyde d'uranium fritté.)*g|
|OBS*||pastille de combustible : terme normalisé par l'ISO.*d|
Fig. 10a Monosemy: only one meaning of the terms is dealt with on a single-concept record
Fig. 10b Polysemy: series of senses in a lexical entry taken from ITP Nelson Canadian Dictionary of the English Language, 1997, p. 1013
The terminological definition is a concise description of the delimiting characteristics of a concept, presented in lexicographical, or dictionary-like, format. The definition must give the meaning of the term, rather than dealing with questions of the term's usage (Sager 2000: 12). Thus, it differs in function from linguistic observations of the type "Term used in X to designate Y." The terminological definition is the most important application of the single-concept principle and the main means of establishing a textual match.
The nature of definitions varies according to the subject field. In scientific and technical subject fields, basic terminologies are validated through the use of definitions cited from authoritative sources, whereas new terminologies in such fields often require the formulation of definitions based on bits and pieces of textual information found during research. Further, in these subject fields the presentation of the definition must closely follow existing patterns; stylistic variation is quite limited. This is one reason for the close resemblance of the definitions for a given concept found in the best technical and scientific dictionaries. On the other hand, in social, economic and legal subject fields, the definitions for a given concept vary greatly, depending on the historical, cultural, and legal context of the institution or country in which the concept is recognized (Rey 2000: 131).
The terminologist must generally formulate definitions with the help of references to the documentation consulted. The quotation of definitions and contexts must, in fact, be kept to a minimum, for the following reasons:
This professional duty is reinforced by intellectual property law as applied to the creation of commercial terminological products.
The terminological definition is a brief statement that provides a clear understanding of the meaning of a specialized term. It begins with a word identifying the broader class (genus) to which the concept belongs, and then specifies essential or delimiting features that clearly separate this concept from related concepts in that class. The delimiting features may include (DUBUC 1992):
Intrapreneur: Salaried manager (nature) who applies to his work (topic) the motivation and initiative (manner) of a company owner (referent).
Fig. 11 Intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics
Among the non-essential characteristics of a concept are the shape of an object, the inventor of the object, and the time, space, and manner of use of the object.
The method of formulating the definition may be selected from a number of options, including the following:
computer peripheral: In a data processing system, any equipment, distinct from the central processing unit, which may provide the system with outside communication or additional facilities.
printer: A computer peripheral that outputs data to hard copy.
nonimpact printer: A printer in which printing is the result of means other than mechanical impact.
laser printer: A nonimpact printer that uses a low-power laser to produce image-forming charges on the photoconductive surface of a drum.
Fig. 12 Definition by genus and difference
printer: A computer peripheral that produces a durable record of data in the form of a sequence of discrete graphic characters belonging to a predetermined character set.
Fig. 13 Definition by function
laser printer: A nonimpact printer that operates at well over 10,000 lines per minute, using a low-power laser to produce image-forming charges a line at a time on the photoconductive surface of a drum; dry powder that adheres only to charged areas is applied to the drum, transferred to plain paper, and fused by heat.
Fig. 14 Operational definition
oblong: elliptical, blunt at each end, having nearly parallel sides, and two to four times as long as broad.
Fig. 15 Synonymous definition by paraphrase
A number of principles must be observed when drafting terminological definitions, including the following:
|EN||circular particle accelerator*a*
|DEF*||Accelerator in which the energy of charged particles is increased by successive increments due to the repeated passage of particles in the same accelerating device.*e|
|OBS*||circular accelerator: term standardized by ISO.*f|
|FR||accélérateur circulaire*c,d,e*CORRECT, MASC, STANDARDIZED|
|DEF*||Accélérateur dans lequel l'énergie de particules chargées augmente par des accroissements successifs provoqués par le passage répété des particules dans le même dispositif d'accélération.*c|
|OBS*||accélérateur circulaire : terme normalisé par l'ISO.*f|
Fig. 16 Terminological definitions
When formulating a definition, the terminologist must keep these principles in mind and select:
Specialized languages target the ideal of monosemy, but they are nonetheless a set of evolving social conventions. Consequently, they include linguistic variants just as general language does.
When creating a terminology record or updating a terminology file, the terminologist must qualify the synonyms that designate a concept to reflect actual usage. For example, the term may be the scientific or technical designation or it may be technical jargon; it may be used correctly or incorrectly, internationally, commonly, officially, or in a limited geographical area; a neologism may be accepted or criticized; a term may be rare, obsolete, deprecated, standardized or officially approved. The terminologist helps users select proper terms by qualifying synonyms with appropriate usage labels, by explaining usage in observations or demonstrating usage through usage samples, and by supporting these findings with references to sources of information.
The main usage labels found in large terminology data banks are grouped into six categories:
|EN||passenger elevator*a*CORRECT, USA, STANDARDIZED
passenger lift*d*CORRECT, GREAT BRITAIN
|DEF*||An elevator used primarily to carry persons other than the operator and persons necessary for loading and unloading.*a|
|CONT*||Passenger elevators have relatively wide, shallow cars with wide entrances, so that people can enter and leave quickly at each stop.*c|
|OBS*||passenger elevator: term standardized by IEEE (Standards Committee).*g|
|FR||ascenseur*e,f*CORRECT, MASC, STANDARDIZED|
|DEF*||Appareil élévateur permettant de transporter des personnes dans une cabine se déplaçant entre des guides verticaux, ou faiblement inclinés sur la verticale, et actionnée par une machinerie.*e|
|OBS*||ascenseur : terme normalisé par AFNOR.*g|
Fig. 17 Geographical, grammatical, official-status usage labels
In the languages of literature and the media, originality of content and uniqueness of expression are greatly valued. Specialized languages, on the other hand, must facilitate the global sharing of specialized knowledge. They are characterized by a cognitive or referential function that favours consistency of content and expression. In terminology, the principle of consistency is more important than that of creativity.
The concept of language management evolved primarily following World War II as a governmental initiative to give preferred status to a selected level of language such as conventional French, standard Russian, simplified Chinese, or BBC English, and to identify gaps or grammatical or lexicographical discrepancies to be filled or corrected through official language notices. The Délégation générale à la langue française in France, the Office de la langue française in Quebec and various African language-planning agencies have taken this approach (Antia 2000).
In most cases, this governmental intervention dealt with gaps and corrections pertaining to general language on an ad hoc basis. In contrast, terminology standardization as conducted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or by national standardization bodies (see list in Appendix I) is limited to the concepts and vocabulary of specialized languages, is thematic and prescriptive in nature, and is performed by subject-field specialists in accordance with more or less globally accepted procedures (such as the ISO Project management guidelines for terminology standardization).
The process of official approval of terminology falls between these two types of intervention. This process encompasses concern for conceptual precision and linguistic correction, adequacy of the term to the communication situation, and efficiency of communication. According to user needs, the approval process may deal with individual cases or may take a thematic approach. It is performed by a working group or user committee that may or may not include subject-field specialists. The application of official-approval decisions may be mandatory or strongly recommended, or may be adopted by consensus.
The terminologist responsible for collecting and approving terminology used within a department or a company may perform the following tasks (among others):
The Terminology and Standardization Directorate of the Translation Bureau has suggested the following official-approval approach to other departments of the Canadian federal government:
Fig. 18 Steps of the official-approval approach proposed to federal government departments by the TSD
Terminology standardization and official-approval activities may be integrated into a governmental language-management policy, as illustrated recently in the Translation Bureau of Canada (see Appendix III: Language Management Infrastructure in the Public Service of Canada).